Sensory Overload – A European Perspective on Dragoncon

I’m back home from Dragoncon a couple of days now and have had time for mature reflection. Anything I say must be prefaced by the stats – an average Irish con these days gets about 300 visitors. The largest con I’ve been to previously was Worldcon in Mortreal, where the numbers were in the five to six thousand region. Somewhere in the region of forty-five thousand visitors passed through the doors of Dragoncon last week in under four days. So you can understand that I was blown away bt the sher scale of the event.

Crowd Scene

I brought my camera – maybe I could snap a famous writer or take some shots of my friends, I thought. Instead I shot off snap after snap of ordinary people in extraordinary garb (costumes) and the hordes that trampled through the hotels at all hours of the day and night.

Not Sure About the Casting of Dorothy.

The panels were a blur. I attended several in the Anne McCaffrey’s Worlds stream. They were great fun. I also went to one in the YA track giving advice to young writers. Now even my best friends would not claim I was young, my detractors would question the writer bit, but the advice that was given was top notch, as you would expect, and applicable to young writers of every age. I was astonished how many of the teenagers present were working on novels – not always their first.

It’s a Red Dalek, what’s not to like.

All in all, there was simply too much going on to take it all in at the first attempt. I will have to go again and, hopefully, they will again let me in. (I usually have to go everywhere twice – second time to apologise).

If they're recasting Peter Pan these guys have got a real shout.

He clanked when he walked!

Don’t know what he was supposed to be, but definitely my favourite costume.

The highlight for me, in a purely personal way, was the awards banquet. I got to sit at the table beside some very famous people and some of them even shook my hand. And though it was the sad part of the evening, no matter how much host John Ringo protested to the opposite, I won’t quickly forget his speech about those icons of science fiction (without the fiction in one notable case) who passed on this year. Three were named and eulogised at length. Neil Armstong who, as long as history is read and taught, will ever be remembered for his heroic trip onto our sattelite and his Giant Leap, was first up. Then came Ray Bradbury, the man who turned middle America into something weird, wonderful and often creepy. But held for last, like the lead act at a rock concert was Anne McCaffrey.

The Mad Hatter and his bitches.

I was fortunate enough to know Annie and lived close to her home in Co. Wicklow for many years. Her son Todd was sitting beside me litening to John Ringo remembering for us all, his wonderful mother and ordering him, not too successfully, not to cry. Afterwards I felt moved to shake John by the hand and, in a firm, manly voice, thank him for his wonderful speech. Unfortunately a lump in the throat intervened and I delivered only half my message.

Thanks, John, Annie would have been proud and delighted to hear your kind and heartfelt words as you channeled the feelings of the entire audience.

This stormtrooper family are friends of Todd (no it’s not a euphamism).

But check out the costumes, aren’t they awesome (not a word I use with any regularity, but the only one I truly felt would fit here). And thanks to all the hordes of fans who took the time and spent their hard-earned cash on this feast for the eyes. I’ve never been a fan of costumes but I was truly blown away by the variety and quality on show in Atlanta.


About Bob Neilson

Bob Neilson lives in Dublin with his wife, two daughters, son, two dogs, one cat and a growing feeling of claustrophobia. In partnership with his wife he runs a successful retail business in Dublin city. His short fiction has appeared extensively in professional and small press markets and he has had two plays performed on RTE and one on Anna Livia FM. He also presented a radio show on Anna Livia for a year. He has had two short story collections published, Without Honour (1997, Aeon Press) and That’s Entertainment (2007, Elastic Press) as well as several comics and a graphic novel. His non-fiction book on the properties of crystals is a best-seller in the UK and Ireland.
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